A large crowd turned out to march for immigration reform and solidarity this afternoon in Hampton Bays in observance o “A Day Without Immigrants.”
Between 200 and 300 people from across the East End participated in the march along a half-mile stretch of Montauk Highway that ended with a vigil at St. Rosalie’s Church.
Marchers included immigrants and supporters of all ages and national origins, carrying signs and chanting. Passing vehicles honked their support throughout the march.
A small group of counter-protesters gathered on the opposite side of the road, shouting “ILLEGAL” and “GO HOME” to the protestors. The group of five people held signs expressing opposition messages: “DEPORT ILLEGALS,” and “WHEN THEY JUMPED THE FENCE THEY BROKE THE LAW.” One man held a “VOTE DONALD TRUMP” sign aloft.
Marchers and the counter-protesters exchanged words as the line of of protesters passed by. At one point, the exchange grew heated, as the temper of one female protester flared.
Dulce Rojas, a community organizer with Sepa Mujer, one of the coordinators of today’s march on the East End, commended Southampton Town Police for making sure the situation did not get out of hand.
Rojas said she was pleased — and a bit surprised — by today’s turnout. The march was organized on short notice, she said and it was “one of the first actions out here.”
The idea was to “let the community know they don’t stand alone,” Rojas said. “We are here. We are making ourselves known,” she said.
Many Latino businesses — and some non-Latino businesses — across the North Fork closed their doors for the day, in observance of the protest. From supermarkets to bodegas to restaurants, Latino business owners put signs on their doors and windows announcing they’d be closed today.
Some local schools saw an impact too.
“We had many immigrant students out today,” Riverhead Central School District Superintendent Nancy Carney said. Carney said she would not be able to provide numbers until tomorrow morning, after the various buildings submit their end-of-day attendance reports. “The same is true for a number of districts in Suffolk,” Carney said.
Today’s action was supported by a number of organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Make the Road NY, Rural and Migrant Ministry and Long Island Jobs with Justice.
“Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic stands with the immigrant community because we know that the need for health care has no borders,” said Vincent Russell, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson-Peconic. “The Planned Parenthood community is made up of people from all walks of life, including immigrants and refugees. We believe that all people deserve the highest quality of care — no matter who they are, where they come from, or where they live. Our doors are open to everyone, regardless of their immigration status.”
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti